For a list that allows the user to control the order of items, where should new items be inserted?


After hitting "New Item", where should it go?

Before the current selection:

**New Victim**

Or after?

**New Victim**  

My thoughts:

Before seems more natural by preserving the position of the current selection.

However, when inserting multiple items, they would get inserted in reverse order. In addition, appending an item seems the more common operation but would require manual (additional) sorting.

So I'm leaning to "after", but it feels really weird when used in the middle of a list.

Specifics for the application:

The list is usually short (~5..30 items typical), and visible as a whole.
Creting a new item will also select it.
For some users, the order is an esthetic one (they might have a specific order in mind, but it doesn't affect functionality at all).

(edit) Related question - but Q and A's discuss only top of list, bottom of list, independent of selection, which seems less useful at least in my case

  • 1
    Can the list be re-ordered after the items have been added? It might be easier (conceptually) for all new items to be added to the bottom of the list, and then be moved to a specific position if required.
    – Matt Obee
    Jan 3, 2013 at 12:59
  • @Mat Obee: yes, they can but appears tedious."Insert where you are" seems a reasonable request.
    – peterchen
    Jan 3, 2013 at 13:23
  • How does the user insert the item?
    – kontur
    Jan 3, 2013 at 14:16
  • @kontur: by hitting "insert" or clicking the respective button. Depending on context, there's also a form to pick type and template.
    – peterchen
    Jan 3, 2013 at 14:34

3 Answers 3


And if it has maximum of 30 items and all of them are visible why you just not place an action at the end of the list and add an ability to quickly reorder the list?

new victim

So, position of the new item will be obvious. And you can keep the selection untouched in this case.

  • I agree. If putting the items in a specific order is optional and "doesn't affect functionality at all", I question the value in forcing users to think about the order before adding a new item. Add each one to the end and allow users who wish to re-order them to do so.
    – Matt Obee
    Jan 3, 2013 at 14:28
  • @MattObee: doesn't affect functionality at all for some users - which is why I want to avoid adding explicit separate "insert here" / "insert at end", but looking for a sensible default
    – peterchen
    Jan 4, 2013 at 12:24
  • @alexeypegov: Seems the "safe way out", but I still feel a bit uneasy.
    – peterchen
    Jan 4, 2013 at 12:26

I recommend providing both: Insert Before and Insert After, as e.g. Google Spreadsheets does.

A preview feedback would be also useful, no matter whether you provide either one or both.


Insert is above the selected item. Or more correct: At the selected items position, pushing the selected item down.

[...] when inserting multiple items, they would get inserted in reverse order.

If you're at the top of the list, that's exactly what you want. (Ref LIFOs and Stacks) :-)

[...] appending an item seems the more common operation [...].

Adding to the end of the list would be "Add item" or "Append item".

The final solution will depend on several issues. Perhaps you could use both "Insert", "Add" and "Append" as three different actions? Or as thSoft suggests, use "Insert before" and "Insert after".

You should test this with some users and find out:
1) what they need to accomplish their task
2) what they expect when they are interacting with your interface

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